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Spotlight on Metcalf Institute Alumni: Meera Subramanian

Meera Subramanian 180x180 copyMeera Subramanian, an award-winning journalist, newly published author, and Metcalf Institute alumna, has been passionate about the environment since the age of 19, when she spent four months aboard a cruise ship navigating the globe through the Semester at Sea program. She witnessed a world both infinite in experience and very finite in natural resources. The voyage helped set Subramanian on her career path.

“It was just an amazing eye opener,” said Subramanian of her sophomore year visiting 10 different countries. “I remember seeing people in eastern Asia fishing for the tiniest fish because overfishing depleted large fish populations.”

She began her career writing stories about environmental issues for nonprofits before her desire to dig deeper led her to pursue a graduate degree in journalism from New York University. In an effort to strengthen her knowledge of science, Subramanian attended Metcalf’s Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists in 2012 and a Metcalf Climate Change and the News Seminar focusing on climate change adaptation in St. Louis in 2015.

“Just trying to make stories accessible to a general readership can be really challenging,” said Subramanian. “The better I understand the science, the easier it is for me to figure out how to write about complex issues in a way that people can understand.”

Subramanian’s work as a freelance journalist has appeared in The New York Times, Nature, The Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian Magazine and other national and international publications.

A Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship helped Subramanian take her writing to a new level when she spent five months conducting research about ordinary people in India as the country sought to bring itself back from environmental disaster.

“It was amazing because I have such a strong connection to India,” said Subramanian of her father’s ancestral homeland. “The part that I loved was how much it brought together so many threads of things I’ve been working on since I was 19 years old.

She returned from India brimming with ideas, just in time to be snowed in during one of the coldest New England winters on record. “It was really long days of isolation, and I just wrote, digesting all the information and weaving it together with academic research to balance out the anecdotal stories.”

Her book, A River runs Again, India’s Natural World in Crisis, from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnatka, was published in August of 2015 to critically-acclaimed reviews.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book, “this is investigative journalism as story: fact-filled but optimistic, rueful and inviting.”

Publishers Weekly called the book “eminently readable.”

As she wraps her national book tour, which includes a public lecture hosted by Metcalf Institute and Brown University, Subramanian said she hopes her new book becomes part of a much larger conversation about the environment. “I think there’s a lot we can learn from India, about what’s working and what’s not working in terms of living sustainably on our planet.”

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